April 1, 2011
What is it about high-volume TV pitches that makes us believe these gizmos are the solutions we've yearned for?
A lot of the time, they're solutions to problems we didn't even realize we had.
More and more drugstores and big-box retailers are devoting whole sections to "As Seen on TV" wares, so clearly shoppers are buying the stuff, thinking, "Why not give it a try."
Here's why. Many of these items are a waste of money or cause more problems than they solve. That's what I found in earlier tests of As Seen on TV exercise and fashion products.
I've just finished testing six As Seen on TV household items to see how they lived up to their promises. There was one item I absolutely loved. Another was sort of useful. As for the rest, the best I can say about three of them is they're not terrible. And one was an utter disaster.
Wonder hanger, 8 for $9.88
Claim: "Triples closet space"
Reality: If you have lots of shirts and not much closet space, these will definitely give you more hanging capacity — although it might be tough to triple your space. Packaging says they'll hold 20 pounds each, but the weight limit is much less due to cheesy plastic construction. And they're pretty useless if the hanging pole in your closet is only three or four feet off the ground.
Verdict: Only OK
Mr. Steamy, 2 for $14.88
Claim: "Turns your dryer into a wrinkle releasing machine."
Reality: My laundry is still wrinkled. The heavy green "Mr. Steamy" ball — its name sounds like a porn star — makes loud thumping noises in the dryer. While my sheets and clothes were static-free and soft enough, I was underwhelmed. Instructions inside the box say they need to be replaced every three to six months and should be used only on high heat, which makes them useless for delicates.
Verdict: Nothing special
Open It! $9.88 reduced to $9.48
Claim: "Opens sealed plastic packaging, toy packaging, electronics packaging, twist ties, CDs, DVDs …"
Reality: No more stabbing myself trying to open sealed clamshell packaging with a kitchen knife! This thing is genius. And no more trying to use manicure scissors to get the plastic off a CD. There's a retractable box cutter blade in one handle, and in the other is the tiny Phillips screwdriver you can never find when you need it to open electronics' battery compartments. This will save you hours of frustration, swearing and, even, bloodshed.
Claim: "Stays sharp 10 times longer than stainless steel."
Reality: Only after you read the booklet do you discover that this short, stubby knife comes with lots of "DO NOT" warnings. Don't use it to cut frozen food, hard cheese or food with bones. Don't chop or smash food with it. Don't put it in the dishwasher, near a flame, or cut on any surface except a wood or a plastic cutting board. No wonder it stays sharp longer, considering all the jobs it can't do.
Verdict: Don't bother
Touch N Brush, $14.88
Claim: "No Mess. No waste."
Reality: I'm not sure I need one more piece of equipment to clutter up my bathroom, but this one mostly eliminates the toothpaste tube glop. It dispenses the right size dollop of toothpaste, and it was so simple that even I could install it — with no tools. The kids who tried it at my house thought it was great, but will they actually brush more because of it?
Verdict: Worth a try
Bottle Top, 12 for $5.88
Claim: "Snap on. Helps avoid spills."
Reality: What an awful idea. You need the strength of a longshoreman to put the top on the can. Not a snap at all. And why bother? You're lulled into thinking that your drink can't spill. But beware! If you place the can (with installed bottle top) on its side or upside down, it leaks — a lot. Remove the top (enduring sloshing soda spills in the process), and you're stuck with soda dripping from the bottle top. Creates problems instead of solving them.
All items from Wal-Mart, walmart.com; "Open It!" also at enjoyzibra.com; and others at asseenontvguys.com.
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